Interview with Eric Stanze

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Interview conducted by Christopher Maynard

Eric Stanze is an Independent filmmaker raising funds for a feature length film called The Stoplight. He is best known for directing Ratline and Deadwood Park but also was second unit director on We Are What We Are and Stake Land.

How are you today?

Overworked by all the demands our upcoming film Stoplight is putting on me, but I also just keep getting more and more thrilled about the project.  The super-enthusiastic response to our announcement of the film has been energizing… I’m bowled over by all the positive feedback and general fan excitement.

Where are you from?

I was born on an army base in Virginia.  I spent most of my pre-teen years in a company town that surrounded a lead smelting plant on the eastern edge of Missouri.  Our house was at the top of the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River.

Where did you grow up and go to school?

When I was 11, my family moved near Pittsburgh… George Romero zombie country.  It was shortly after we moved to Pennsylvania that I started shooting little 8mm films with my friends.  We attended Beaver High School, about 35 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.  I later finished off high school in a small town south of St. Louis, Missouri, at Windsor High School.

When did you discover film?

I was probably five or six.  If I saw anything on television that was some kind of “making of” program – with behind-the-scenes footage of a movie or TV show being made – I was transfixed.  I loved Star Wars and wanted to make action-packed sci-fi movies.  I loved Jim Henson’s Muppets.  I couldn’t make films or a TV show, so I made a lot of puppets.

What has attracted you to working in the horror genre?

When I was 9 or 10 I spent the night at a friend’s house and we caught 1958’s The Blob and the 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers on TV, late at night.  I think that’s where the first seeds of being a horror fan took root.  Later, when I saw The Evil Dead and The Toxic Avenger, I loved ’em… but also, the rough edges of those movies made me realize I could make movies too.  If Sam Raimi and Lloyd Kaufman could make cheap but cool movies, without big Hollywood budgets, I had a shot at making it work as well.  Later, after making a lot of terrible student movies in high school and college, I began to realize that interesting, thought-provoking, artful movies could be made in the horror genre – not just fun slasher and gross-out movies.  Things are improving, but the genre used to be seen much more as some kind of restriction on what can be accomplished cinematically.  In reality, the genre adds a whole lot of additional, wonderful colors to the palette.

How did your relationship with Jim Mickle begin, and will it continue?

A friend of mine, Aaron Crozier, got the gig as the 1st AD on Stake Land.  I was a big fan of Mickle’s previous film, Mulberry Street – and Larry Fessenden (Habit, The Last Winter) was producing Stake Land.  Fessenden is something of a hero to me, so I was pretty much prepared to do anything, fill any crew position on that set, if they’d have me.

Aaron put in a good word for me, and I was asked to join the shoot as an unpaid camera operator for the DVD making-of documentary.  A week into the shoot, I was asked if I’d like a paycheck to direct and edit the documentary.  Halfway through the shoot, I was bumped all the way up to 2nd Unit director of Stake Land.

I think at first they had no idea who I was, but then slowly they realized I’d directed a few of my own films, and that I wasn’t just a fresh-off-the-turnip-truck videographer.  On day one of the shoot, I was a nobody; lowest priority. Then, two weeks into the shoot, a producer told me he was happy I was there, because he hoped my involvement with the film would draw my fan base and boost sales of Stake Land.  That’s quite a leap, from day-one lowly behind-the-scenes camera-monkey to, a couple weeks later, hearing producers talk about my fan base.

The new issue of Rue Morgue Magazine came out during the shoot, and in it was a very positive retro-review of my film Deadwood Park.  I didn’t even know about this.  It was actually Larry Fessenden who handed me the magazine on set and showed me the review.  So it was clear to Mickle and Fessenden that I was quite capable of taking on the more substantial and challenging position of 2nd Unit director.  As an added bonus, I struck up a friendship with Larry – and I was relieved to learn this indie film hero of mine is a really cool, down to earth, super nice person.

I was hired on to Mickle’s follow-up, We Are What We Are, again as 2nd Unit director.  A ton of material was assigned to me on that movie.  Easily fifteen or twenty times what they’d assigned to 2nd Unit on Stake Land.

We Are What We Are was a great experience.  I loved the work, and collaborating with Mickle was a joy because he’s as cool a dude as he is talented a filmmaker.  I love how both Stake Land and We Are What We Are turned out.  I’m proud to have contributed to those two really incredible films.

I’ve stayed in contact with Jim Mickle since We Are What We Are.  Yes, I hope to work on more of his films in the future.  When and if the circumstances are right, if he calls me up and asks, I’m there in a heartbeat.

How do you describe Stoplight?

One of the film’s strengths is that it is difficult to describe.  We’ve been calling it, “A road-trip odyssey, a stark thriller, and a harrowing descent into madness.”  This is accurate, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Stoplight is a road trip film, following in the footsteps of classics like Vanishing Point, Two-Lane Blacktop and Easy Rider.  It’s also a weird mutation of a horror film.  It tells a dark tale of a personal, almost spiritual journey, while also commenting on a lot of what’s broken in America.  Religion, the erosion of the US economy by the wealthy few, sexual repression, the role women are still boxed into in American culture…  these are some of the themes that pulse menacingly beneath the surface of the film.  The nefarious nature of such stuff begs to be folded into a horror art film.  It can be subtle, nearly invisible – and I don’t have to take sides. I don’t have to provide answers.  The questions are scary enough.

Will you be the cinematographer?

Yes.

What camera will you shoot it on?

I still have not made a final decision, but I’m spending a significant amount of time on the research, evaluating what gear will likely fit best with this specific project.

Why have you chosen to crowdsource this project?

Our prior films have been funded primarily by investors, mixed with a handful of fundraising events (usually rock shows).  For Stoplight, we wanted to have our fans involved from the beginning.  This way, we see a bit more funding up front, and the fans get more out of the movie.  They become participants – not just consumers who buy the product at the end of the process.

We’ve never gone the crowdfunding route before, so we want to learn the ropes, figure out what works, what does not work, evaluate the experience and see if we want to repeat it in the future.

Do you think the explosion of online VOD distribution is good for film?

Personally, I prefer the DVD or Blu-Ray, but I understand the current distribution landscape is dominated by VOD.  There are negatives to this, but mostly, I think it is positive.  It helps level the playing field, and provide nearly equal access to big budget films and small indies alike.  Back when everything was on tape or disc at Blockbuster and Best Buy, the indies were choked out.  Best Buy would have fifty copies each of the last twenty Big Hollywood Hits on their shelves, and not much else.  Online distribution means a great indie film shares the same “shelf space” with the Big Hollywood Hits, and audiences finally have a real choice.

 

A quick thank you to Eric for taking time out of his busy schedule to do this interview.   He seems like a really good guy who happens to be making films that speak to me and my sensibilities. I, for one, am very excited to see this film and wish Eric and the producers the best of luck with this worthwhile endeavor. Please give him some love.

The Stoplight Indiegogo campaign runs through July 26th: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/stoplight–2

You can find Eric on Twitter @eric_stanze

Stanze B and W Pic

An Interview With Marilyn Burns

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I am still gobsmacked that I had the honour of speaking with Ms. Marilyn Burns. Yes, Marilyn Burns of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre fame.  I can only speak for myself when I say that Sally Hardesty in TCM was my first Final Girl. Shawn Ewert, director of the upcoming film Sacrament was genreous enough to set this interview up and it was just a joy. I hope you find Marilyn to be as lovely and down to earth as I did. You can see Marilyn Burns in Sacrament, premiering June 7,2014 at The Texas Theatre in Dallas, Tx .

I don’t remember the last time I was as nervous as I was dialing up Ms. Marilyn Burns. She immediately put me at ease by saying, “Oh Lisa! Yes, yes, yes!”

L.F. How did you meet Shawn Ewert?

M.B. “Ya know, I probably met him at different conventions in the past. Different shows, maybe Texas Frightmare and stuff and he just called me up and asked me to do his film. I knew of his work because he’s a wonderful director and so I was real excited to be able to work with him.”

L.F. Didn’t he write this part for you?
M.B. “Oh Lisa, I don’t know.”

L.F.  That’s what I heard.
M.B. “Well, then he did. I’m very flattered and delighted to be in his picture. Yeah, he had me in mind when he wrote it; he thought it would be a cool touch to it, ya know?”

L.F. Are you able to speak about your role in Sacrament?
M.B. “Well, I don’t know. How much do you know about it? I don’t know how much I can say, ya know? I know that in most movies of this nature, they do want things on the hush hush because that’s part of the fun and surprise when it comes out.”

L.F. Well, we should probably keep it that way; I dont want to ruin anything.
M.B. “No, thats the thing; I wouldn’t watnt to either. I will say this.  He’s a wonderful director and I had a great time shooting with him and he had the most fabulous cast and most fabulous crew. You couldn’t get better. They were so professional. They did everything in tip top fashion.  Everything was planned out to the T.”

L.F. So, this was a really nice experience for you.
M.B. “Oh definitley. One of my best experiences yet, to date.”

L.F. Really?
M.B. “I really enjoyed it; we had a lot of fun on the set.”

L.F. You were there with Mr. Guinn, correct?
M.B. “Yes.”

 

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L.F. Have you stayed friends since the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre film?
M.B. “Yes, because now they’re having all of these reunions at conventions. We’ve been on several and, I think, this year were going to Corpus Christi and Austin; we’ve got several coming up where we’re all going to be together.”

L.F. It seems the main cast, from the original movie, you keep popping up in films with one another.
M.B. “Yeah, if we can.  It’s really fun to work with each other.  Now, it’s like, can you believe this.?!  Especially when John and Gunnar and I were in Louisiana, shooting Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D; we were having lunch and we looked at each other and said, can you believe this? here we are, back again, all in the movie. So, it made it really fun on the set. There’s a lot of reminiscing and the conventions are fun too because they’re like reunions.”

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L.F. When you did TCM3D, was it surreal to see yourself at the beginning of the movie from the origianl film?
M.B. “No, I knew that was going to be there. I was surprised how much they used of it. I didn’t think they were going to use that much of the clip. I thought, my goodness. (laughs) I had forgotten about that.”

L.F. As a fan, it was really excting for me to have the movie start that way.
M.B. “Well, I mean, of course I thought it was exciting. I was glad they wrapped them up together like that. I didnt expect it.”

M.B. “What did you think of that one?” (movie)
L.F. I thought it was fun!
M.B. “You did?”

L.F. Yeah, it was tons of fun with the 3D.

M.B. “Yeah, that made it neat, too. We all had a very good time there. That was great because I got to be with Gunnar and John. Like I said, I had done some things with Ed at different reunions. Recently, we were in Germany together last year. Who would think I would be going to Germany this many years later?”

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L.F. Yeah, is it unbelieable to you that this movie is still as popular as it is?
M.B. “I’m amazed people still talk about it. It’s a blessing. Who would have ever thought?”

L.F. So, you had no idea when you were filming that this would be a hit?
M.B. “I just wanted it to get released in theatres. That’s what I prayed for. So many movies are made and, then, they never make it. Finally, it got picked up and it just kept going. I guess its still going today, or I wouldnt be doing so many conventions.””

L.F. You have fun doing the conventions? Does it ever feel like work?

M.B. “Are you kidding?” (laughing) How could you go to one of those conventions, get money for autographs and smile all day and not have a good time?”
L.F. Well, I’ve come across a few people who look less than excited about it, so, i just had to ask.

M.B. “Why wouldn’t they have fun?!” (laughing)

L.F. I dont know, I asked myself the same question. (There is much laughter at this point.)
M.B. :If we hear someone griping about something, we all get together and go, is he out of his mind? What’s his problem? Why is he here anyway, then? If this is a job to you, don’t come. That’s not what the deal is. It’s an hounour.”

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L.F. Aw, thats nice,
M.B. “Well, it is. People like something you did? You should be proud and grateful that they care. That’s just a give. Don’t you agree with me on that?”

L.F. Absolutley. It’s an honour for us (the fans) when we get to meet somebody.
M.B. “It works both ways. I’ve met terrific people. Every time is very exciting. A lot of times, I have my brother pick me up from the airport. He says, I like picking Marilyn up from the airport because she’s so happy when she gets back.  I can’t ever remember one that I felt disappointed or upset or it felt like work. Gosh, I’m just grateful as hell that I get to go.”

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L.F. So, going way, way back, your first role was in a Robert Altman film?
M.B. “That was just a teeny, tiny little part. I ran down and managed to get a role as an extra and then ended up working on the movie in a different capacity. I then auditioned for Sidney Lumet for Lovin’ Molly;  it had Blythe Danner, Beau Bridges and Anthony Perkins. He gave me the part and I was going to be one of the four leads; I was so excited. Then, a couple of weeks later, he called me and said, Marilyn, I’m so sorry, but in order for me to get Beau and Blythe, I have to cast this girl named Susan Sarandon. So, he gave me a role as an extra and I was a stand in for both Blythe and Susan; theyre both 5’7″ and I’m 5’3″so, I had to stand on an apple cart.”

L.F. So, did you always love horror or did you just happen to end up in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre?
M.B. “Well, I was on the Texas Film Commission; I helped start that in 1971 and, so, I was familiar with all of the things that were coming in and out of Texas. I met Tobe (Hooper, writer and director of TCM) and Kim (Henkel; writer on TCM) on the set of Lovin’ Molly. I had seen them in Austin and recognized them as filmmakers. They come on the set and they want to watch Lumet shoot. Then, they help themselves when the food comes out. The producer, Stephen Friedman, who had just finished The Last Picture Show, he came over and says, who are you guys? Do you work on this? When they told him no, they weren’t working, Stephen says, Give me back the chicken!”

“So, because I was on the Film Commission and worked with the head of the commission, that’s when I saw that Tobe and Kim were working on this movie (TCM) together. Warren Skerrit, the head of the Film Commission,  is actually the one that came up with the title. They had titles like Scum of the Earth and Headcheese. I think the first title was Headcheese, then it was Scum of the Earth. I thought, I don’t really want to be in something called Scum of the Earth, but what the hell, its’ a movie. To get a lead in a movie, it was aweome ya know? I said something to Warren;  I said, these guys need another title. Warren was a pretty artistic guy and he came up with the most perfect title, ya know? Such an attention getting title. There werent that many chainsaw massacres back then and then you add Texas to it; people are curious about Texas. Back in 74, that title was just catchy. It helped make the movie.”

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L.F. Do you ever wonder what might have happened with Sally?
M.B. “Yeah, well, I’ve written about 5 or 6 endings for poor Sally and we kept thinking of doing it and I know Tobe, Kim and I worked on it for a while. We had a plausible reason for what happened to her.

L.F. Did you go directly from TCM to Eaten Alive?
M.B. “No, I did Helter Skelter before that.”

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L.F. Were you, at all, concerned about taking a role in Helter Skelter?
M.B. “Um, yeah. Because number one, it was too early. It was too soon after the murders and everybody in L.A. resented us doing that. Second, because they told every actress that auditioned, you’re going to have to shave your head. I thought, well, I dont want to shave my head, but I’m new in Los Angeles , I have a new agent and  I can’t say, Gosh, I’m Miss Picky and I don’t want to do that. That would have been terrible and it would have been insulting to the director and casting director. Then, I thought, oh, Marilyn, how stupid of you. You’re not going to get cast; they probably already got it hand picked or have package deals. So, I did say to the director, I really dont want to shave my head; is there anything we can do diferent?  He said, well why don’t you read for Linda Kasabian? After I read it, I thought, oh, this is the best part ever. I remember going home and crying my eyes out, thinking I had done terrible. That same afternoon, the phone rings and its my agent saying I got the part.”

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“I’m grateful I was in it and grateful it came out and it was received as well as it did. And Steve Railsback  was a hit! You couldn’t get a better Manson. I had a ball and met the best people; it was a real good experpience. Of course, then you had to worry about when it came out. There were some gripes and I remember when we shot for the La Bianca house, we were on their block and we were in a house two doors down (from the origianl La Bianca house) and the people thought we were so disrespectful. They turned their music up really loud, thinking they would screw us up, but we were shooting without sound that night. It just put us in more of the mood of Manson. It was too perfect.”

L.F. Was that a little bit creepy, though?
M.B. “Of course it was creepy, but ya know, the movie was creepy, the character was creepy, so it just helped the actors. Everything was wrong; let’s face it, that was really wrong, everything that happened.”

L.F. Did you meet Ms. Kasabian?
M.B. “Oh gosh, no. I know some people met the people they were portraying, but not me. She’s in the witness protection program somehwere. She’s the only one that was at both murders and because she was a rat, she gets off. She is the only one of the whole gang who managed to be in the car twice. I had to really work on Kasabian to figure her out and make it believable.”

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L.F. When you played Sally (TCM) and Faye (Eaten Aive), was that hard for you? Were you tied to that bed in Eaten Alive forever? That’s what it felt like.
M.B. “Yeah, Texas Chainsaw,  I did a lot of physical stuff and it wasn’t hard. I just wanted to give them a 10; the best I could do. The only thing I could do was give Tobe a 10 and he could bring me down if he needed to, but he never did. A couple of times on Chainsaw, when I ran into the bbq place, I ran into the camera, the camera man…..you know, I didn’t want to look like one of those stupid girls who is running in one clip and then the next time you see her, she’s casually going into somewhere…oh, help me…..
He would tell me, Marilyn, slow down; hit your mark and don’t hit the camera man.”

In Eaten Alive, that had it’s issues. Yeah, I think they did have me tied up there forever and gagged. Some of the actors were way too into their parts and I had to remind them that we’re acting.(starts laughing) That’s probably why it looks so damn real!
L.F. Yeah, it looks awful.
M.B. “Yeah, it was pretty uncomfortable.”

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L.F. Was Texas Chainsaw Massacre 4 the first time you did a cameo?

M.B. “Yes, Kim had wrote me a real good part, but they werent S.A.G. ,so, I couldn’t be in it unless someone dubbed my lines. So, I just played someone on a gurney as Anonymous. I thought it was just going to be in the background; it was going to be our private joke.”

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L.F. Did he write that part for you in Butcher Boys?
M.B. “Oh! I don’t know. I think so. He definitley had me in mind.”
L.F. I felt really bad for you when they took your dog.
M.B. “Oh, that was terrible! Dang it I haven’t even seen that.  Is it good?”

L.F. Yeah, it’s fun and crazy in a really great way.
M.B. “I’ve got to see that! You did your research, girlfriend!”

L.F. Well, I’ve had a great time working with Shawn Ewert.
M.B. “Oh yeah, he’s remarkable, isn’t he?  You know what? It was my birthday on Wednesday and when I came home from dinner, there was this box of flowers. I thought, who is this from?  It was from Shawn and I was never more amazed.

L.F. Avery Pfeiffer and Troy Ford ( the two leads in Sacrament) both spoke very highly of working with you. They said that you were so wonderful and so easy to talk to and really helpful.
M.B. “That’s lovely. I’m glad to hear it. I certainly enjoyed the whole experience.”

L.F. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. It really was an honour.

M.B. “Oh Lisa, it was great talking with you.”

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Amanda Rebholz Answers 11 Questions With Lisa

imageAmanda Rebholz took some time out of her crazy busy schedule to answer some questions and let us know a little bit about her. Just to give you an idea of the amount of responsibility she carried on Sacrament, she is billed under Actress, Miscellaneous Crew, Camera & Electrical Department, Costume Department, Producer and Writer. What can’t Amanda do?

1.You were a published author at the age of fourteen; what kind of writing do you prefer to do? Short stories, articles, screenplays….

When I was a little kid I would churn out stories at a ridiculous pace… I filled notebooks with stories and poems and little one-page things. My grandma eventually bought me an electric typewriter and taught me how to type so that I could be more productive. It kind of progressed from short stories to articles for my middle-school newspaper, and by the time I was fourteen I was doing reviews of CDs and movies. The local newspaper had a contest to bring in young writers and I was chosen; what started as a few articles for them became a regular column. I wound up being the youngest writer on the syndicated New York Times news wire when I was a teenager, and I started writing for a few magazines and doing live concert reviews. Because of this, I met with a lot of musicians and celebrities who were coming through Dallas and Austin. My mom and grandma were so supportive and would drive me to these events out of town so that I could interview the people and write these pieces. In college I started writing slam poetry and spoken word pieces and performing them at open mic nights on campus… I won a few contests that way and had a couple of pieces published. These days I am writing screenplays, but I still keep a regular blog, write freelance articles for different newspapers and magazines, and write short stories and poetry whenever the mood strikes me. My biggest regret is that I’m not as prolific now as I was when I was a kid. Back then I’d write so much and never stop to go “Wait, there’s a plot hole there” or “this has been done before”, I was just focused on getting the word out on the page. Now I’m in my own head a lot and it inhibits my writing. If I’m doing a screenplay I have to think “What kind of budget would we need to pull that off?”, things like that, and it really changes the final product.

2.You have quite a few job titles on Sacrament; how did all of this responsibility land on you?


Shawn Ewert’s been one of my absolute best friends for years now, and he’s always been a writer and an artist. We’d talked about collaborating before and I actually shot stills and helped him on an unreleased short film he did called “The Sleepover”. Even when he was doing that project, he had the idea for “Sacrament” but he’d gotten stuck on the script. He showed me what he had and we started brainstorming. I was able to help him get through some of the roadblocks, but most of the leg work was his. After the script was written and polished up a little, I volunteered to put up some of the funding to make it happen. Shawn’s got a great work ethic and he’s someone I really believe in. He’s a very stubborn, driven guy and he’s very intelligent. I think because he’s quiet and he doesn’t go around shouting from the rooftops about his ambitions, people underestimate him, but Shawn knows what he wants when he’s working on something and he tries to put people around himself who will help him realize that goal. I’ve done a little bit of everything for different productions, so I was happy to lend my experience to him in any way that helped. I didn’t really mean to get the part of Lorri (which is named after my late mother, who Shawn was very close to as well), by the way. Another girl auditioned and I thought she was actually very good, and I knew how much behind-the-scenes responsibility I’d taken on with this project. It was going to take up the entire summer. Being in front of the camera and behind the camera at the same time was bizarre and stressful and crazy, and sometimes I think it made me a little too close to the project. At the end of the day everyone else got to go home and work on other things and I was still knee-deep in this movie. But that was also really awesome because I got to see it develop from embryo to toddler, so to speak, and I was a part of every side of it. Shawn was really great about listening to my input and so it was really fun for me to take on so many parts. I think that’s the whole spirit of indie film like this anyway. If you’re making a movie on this kind of budget everyone HAS to chip in and roll up their sleeves. No one’s entitled to anything, most of us haven’t even come close to paying our dues to have any sense of being ‘better’ than anyone else. If something needs done, people just have to pitch in and get it done at the end of the day. It was a huge communal effort to make “Sacrament” and I was honored to be a part of it in so many ways.

3.Would you be interested in having this many hats to wear on another project?


I think I would, but hindsight is 20/20. Of course when you put a film to bed you’re able to look back and see the things you might’ve done differently, the oversights you made, things like that. I’m very critical of myself and my mistakes and I always strive to be the best I can, so I always go “Ah! I should’ve known that would happen!” after something goes wrong. But you can’t play the ‘could’ve would’ve should’ve’ game, you just have to focus on making your next project even more awesome. I’m working on a film right now in LA and I started out as the director’s assistant but I wound up polishing script pages, rewriting some pretty crucial scenes, taking on-set stills, collaborating with the special effects artists, going to production meetings, getting to be involved with editing decisions and reshoots, and working on the publicity and marketing for the final product. If I’m really passionate about something, it’s really hard for me not to dive in with both feet and really devote myself to the project.

4.Do you have a favorite area of the horror genre?


The ones that really disturb me aren’t the gory ones, although they’re certainly cringe-worthy. The thing I absolutely cannot handle in a movie is when someone has a really messed-up leg injury, like if there’s bone showing or they get their tendon or hamstring cut or something else horrific like that. I will squeal and cover my face or leave the room or something if that happens, it literally nauseates me. But that’s not a ‘scare’ moment. My favorite horror movie ever is ‘Jaws’ and people always argue that that isn’t a horror film. It’s not traditionally horror, it’s more drama than anything I guess, but it always freaked me out and I think it was never about the shark for me, it was about the relationship between the three main men and the sea and the unknown and this primeval beast that they’re up against. I love psychological horror like ‘The Strangers’ and ‘You’re Next’, too. Home invasion stuff really bugs me when it’s done well because your home is supposed to be the safest place in the world, it’s the first place you want to go when shit hits the fan. So if your home becomes the danger zone then where do you go? Plus I live alone in a studio apartment and I’m usually coming home very late at night to an empty, dark place… so I’m always pretty convinced that someone in a scary mask is probably hiding behind my shower curtain. I usually search my apartment right after I go in to make sure that isn’t the case.

5.How did you get into acting and working on films?


I just happened to make a lot of friends who do this for a living. I’ve been a horror fan since I was a very little kid; I remember watching horror movies on my grandpa’s lap when I was a toddler. There are pictures of me dressed like witches and goblins and demons from the time I was like two years old. My mom was a big horror fan and we’d rent all of the classic slasher movies on VHS on Saturday nights and watch them in our apartment. We weren’t too far apart in age, she was only 21 when she had me, so we had an insanely tight relationship and she would expose me to a lot of things I probably shouldn’t have known about. Like buying me a Chucky toy when I was four. But because of that, when I was older I heard about this convention in Dallas called Texas Frightmare Weekend, which is absolutely huge now but back then it was really small and intimate and homey. My first year going was in 2008 and I met a lot of amazing people who were not only into horror films but were actually making them. I fell in with those heathens— Shawn and his husband Jeff were among the first people I met. Two of my closest friends, Brandy and Burt, were producing a horror movie called “Possum Walk” and they needed someone to do some ADR and line dubbing for one of the actresses. I don’t even know how they thought of me but they did, and surprise surprise, I was actually pretty good at voice acting. I came in and did the ADR for that part and after that, I stayed involved. I wrote a short film called “Closure” which we shot, but it’s never come out because it’s kind of been stuck in post-production limbo for more than three years now. Still, it was my first exercise in writing and producing something myself, and I made a lot of great contacts. At Texas Frightmare Weekend I had met this amazing director and FX artist out of LA named Robert Hall, he’d done this great indie film called ‘Lightning Bug’ and had just finished this badass horror film, ‘Laid to Rest’. We became friends and stayed in touch, and I visited him when I was out in California, stuff like that. In October 2013 he called me to ask if I wanted to come work for him on this upcoming feature film, ‘Fear Clinic’, which is starring Robert Englund and Fiona Dourif and all of these other amazing talents. Of course I did, I dropped everything and moved out here. I got to participate in all of the pre-production stuff and went to set in Ohio for a month while we shot the movie, and I’ve been working closely with Rob every step of post-production. I also became very close friends with one of the actors, Thomas, who is also a director and writer. I’ve been really lucky in that all of my friends are creative and they encourage me to pursue my own aspirations. I’m friends with a terrific pack of artistic weirdos and it’s the best possible scenario because they don’t know the meaning of the word ‘impossible’.

6.What was your favorite moment or experience working on Sacrament?


I got really tight with some of the cast, and honestly those are the best moments. You really do become a family on a set, you guys are all in the trenches together, sometimes in weird or uncomfortable situations, working long days without a lot of luxuries, things like that. You either fight like cats and dogs or you become really good friends. Luckily I really loved the cast and crew that Shawn put together. We had so many inside jokes and stupid fun adventures. One of my favorite things was with my co-star Brittany, we were in a car with Troy and Avery and we had to drive past the crew for a shot. We decided to go really slow with all of the windows down, blaring rap music and thugging out on them like gangsters. It was hilarious. Or the time that Troy tried to teach me to twerk.. or when we were filming in this huge bed and breakfast and they gave us permission to have a pool party after hours. We wrapped and then everybody went and got in the pool and it turned into such a ridiculous evening. We were a really tight-knit group and it was so much fun.

7.Are you interested in branching out into any other genres (i.e.) comedy or drama?


I am always interested in branching out. I love horror movies to the core of my being, but most of my favorite movies are dramas, character studies, things with a lot of dialogue and development. Most of what I write is only horror on a very basic level, it’s more about unusual situations and how people react to them. I’d love to do some drama. Comedy is hard, much harder than horror. If a horror movie sucks but has good gore, people will still love it and support it, it’ll find an audience. If comedy isn’t funny, there’s no saving it.

8.Did you have any particularly difficult or grueling experiences working on Sacrament?


I’ll tell you who the unsung heroes are on a film set, and it’s the special FX artists. Especially on an indie film with a very low budget, where the artists are working in really grueling conditions under crazy time constraints, trying to make magic happen. There was one night when we were shooting out in the woods and our head makeup artist Matt Ash was using the bed of a pickup truck as a workstation. People were holding up their cell phones for light as he tried to apply a tubing rig and use an air compressor and everything else… the generator was overheating, we hadn’t tested the gag yet in daylight because there hadn’t been time… one of our actors ended up completely naked in the field trying to hose himself off from sticky fake blood using an old t-shirt and bottled water because we were a little unprepared for the way the gag was going to go off. Scenes like that require very precise pre-planning and you don’t have that luxury when you’re working on a tight budget and deadlines. It’s really inspiring watching people just dive in and grit their teeth and figure out how to fix something in a situation like that. You can either stand there and complain or you can solve the problem and make it work, and every single time Matt did the latter. The hardest part for me about that was having to stand by not knowing how to help because I don’t know anything about effects. My own personal hardest moment was probably a tie between a scene I had to film in a barn and a dialogue scene with Brittany. The scene in the barn was incredibly hot, it was the middle of summer in an abandoned barn in Texas, and I was soaked in sweat. Hay and dust were sticking to me, I was in a wig and full makeup, and I had to lay down in the straw. The barn was full of wasps and we were all afraid of snakes and everyone had guns and sticks and were trying to make sure the area was clear. It was a long, harrowing day, not terribly fun but it looks awesome on film. And the dialogue scene was just a particularly long, tricky speech that Lorri is giving to Jennifer [Brittany’s character] and I just couldn’t nail it. I kept flubbing lines, walking out of frame, missing my marks… if I could do something to fuck it up, I seemed determined to do it. I felt so bad for Brittany having to put up with me that day.

9.What do you hope people’s takeaway will be after seeing the film?


Shawn had such a specific idea when he wrote the film; as a gay male who’s been out his whole adult life and who is very open about his marriage and his feelings on equality in a conservative state like Texas, Shawn has faced a lot of prejudice and hatred in his life. A lot of us who worked on the film, including me, identify as bisexual or gay or some other variation from heterosexuality, and even the straight people on set consider themselves allies for GLBT equality. Living in a pretty straight-laced state the way we do, we see a lot of people who may not be as extreme as the citizens of Middle Spring but that doesn’t mean much. It’s a lot more likely to face discrimination than to be welcomed somewhere with open arms. And I know Shawn has a conflicted history with organized religion and coming to terms with where that stands when it comes to his personal life, as do I. It’s the reason I left the Christian church, I didn’t like the way they made me feel about who I chose to love or get involved with. ‘Sacrament’ is not just a horror film and it’s not exploitive, it isn’t a ‘gay’ film. It’s a movie about people who take an ideal too far, who live on the far extreme end of a conviction. They don’t believe that they’re villains or that they’re doing anything wrong; they actually think they’re doing the characters a favor by saving them from a life of sin. And while most of the religious nutjobs in the world like the Phelps family may not go quite this far, it isn’t that outlandish. You hear stories all over the world about ‘pray the gay away’ camps and organizations that boycott GLBT-friendly establishments and do everything in their power to prevent marriage equality from becoming a reality, and sadly a lot of them ARE affiliated with the churches. It’s a rough place to be if you’re actually an open-minded, loving, modern Christian because your whole group is getting a bad rap because of these people. But the truth is, it is happening all over the place and I think Shawn had a very strong conviction that this was a story he needed to tell and wanted to get out there. I think writing it was liberating for him. And everyone loved the idea of a film where the main couple are a strong, committed gay couple instead of the typical ‘final girl and love interest’ scenario. You don’t see enough strong gay characters in film right now, especially horror or indie films.

10.What other projects do you have lined up?


I’m living in Hollywood right now, working on the post-production of ‘Fear Clinic’. We’re going to be coming to Texas Frightmare Weekend in a few weeks to promote that, show some clips and do a panel. I’m coming out with my boss Rob as well as Thomas Dekker and Corey Taylor, so this is a huge deal for me to be among such talent— but besides that, they’re just sweet guys who I love working with. After TFW, I’m coming back to Texas for the big ‘Sacrament’ premiere and then I will be back to LA to work on another feature with Rob. We have a few things lined up once we put ‘Fear Clinic’ to bed, and I’m writing a new screenplay that I’m insanely excited about. I’ve also been focusing on my other artistic endeavors more. I’ve been a photographer since I was 12 and I’m really starting to get more confident in my skills there. I’ve been very lucky to work with some of my talented friends lately, putting together these really bizarre and beautiful photo shoots, and I want to try to put out a book or something similar.

11.What is one thing that you would like to accomplish this year?
I’m working really hard to better myself in every possible way. I know this sounds really cliché but it’s true. When we started casting ‘Sacrament’ I was about 350 pounds and I was reeling from the death of my mother. I’ve taken care of her since I was nineteen so it’s been very new to me to live on my own and only be responsible for myself, and moving out to LA and making new friends has really opened up my horizons and helped me kind of find myself. I am really exploring who I am and experimenting; I’m having so many great new experiences. I’ve met some incredible people and I can’t wait to keep traveling down all of these wonderfully-weird, windy paths to see where they lead. I think 2014 is going to have some big things in store for me, and if the last year is anything to gauge it by, I can’t even begin to imagine where I’ll end up.

Cory W. Ahre Answers 11 Questions with Lisa

Cory Ahre Answers Eleven Questions With Lisa

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1.How did you get into acting? Was there a specific moment or person that inspired you?

This is a long, weird story, but here is the short version. Being a movie buff and having fancied myself a writer in high school, I had set out to do screenwriting and direct. I had no intention of acting; I really didn’t think that I had it in me.  Unable to afford film school, I set out to find local film makers and  ended up auditioning for Julio Olivera who was casting his short film. I auditioned just as a way to get my foot into the door; I never believed I would get the part.  Well, I got the part and I found myself in my first filmmaking family. A couple of years later, I was at a film festival with another short film and I received a lot of really great feedback from people regarding my performance. Complete strangers, with no reason to boost my ego, were telling me how much they loved my performance. That was when I looked at myself and realized that I could emotionally affect people on screen in ways that I had always wanted to on paper.

2.You have done both comedy and horror; do you prefer one genre over the other?                        I really love both, but I also feel that the two occupy a lot of the same extreme space in terms of emotional energy. I try to fit a little darkness into most of my comedic performances and some light into the horror. Life isn’t just one emotional tone and when you play a character that way, you turn them into a caricature and the audience stops caring. Sacrament is a good example; there is nothing funny about anything that happens to my character, Jason, but I think that there are plenty of moments that will give the audience a laugh.

3.Are you interested in pursuing any other areas of filmmaking?                                Absolutely. I started off wanting to write and direct, so, over the last few years of acting I have been able to make some contacts and pursue that. I wrote and directed an episode of The New Adventures Of Baby Jesus, a web series created by Julio Olivera that I’m currently co-starring in. Olivera and I also wrote a feature film, Unsmokin Drake, which I directed and is currently in post production. I’m also developing a film review web series to be hosted by the film’s title character, Drake. Last, but not least, is Ain’t Clownin Round; a feature film that I wrote and will be presented in twelve chapters to be directed by various filmmakers,including myself. The story follows the exploits of a family of vigilante serial killer clowns. Starring Elizabeth Redpath (Pick Axe Murders Part 3), Maurice Foxx (The New Adventures of Baby Jesus) and myself as the Clown family; we are currently in the fund raising process and in talks with several directors.

4.What is your favorite thing about acting?                                                                                    It gives the actor the ability to affect people. Even though what we’re doing isn’t real, our performance can create a very real, very honest reaction and it is the reason people watch movies. If I do my job correctly, I can create an honest emotional moment for another person. I particularly love this about the horror genre because it provides a safe place for people to experience those emotions that most of us try very hard to suppress in real life.

5. What do you find most difficult about acting?                                                                         Time. There is never enough time to delve into things the way that you would like to. My favorite quote from William S. Burroughs, “Time is a human affliction, not a human invention, but a prison.” A film set is one of those places where the truth of that statement becomes even more clear with each call of ,”Cut! We’re moving on!” from the director.

6. Please share a memorable experience from your time filming Sacrament.                         I have to be careful what I say here because I don’t want to give anything away, but one of my fondest memories is from the night that we shot the Asylum scenes with Jeff Hamielec. He is this nice, well mannered guy who plays one of the asylum wards. Watching him put on his full blown crazy and let the freak out of the cage was awesome. Like the rest of the movie, his character and that sequence is such a throwback to the movies of the genre; I just sat there watching him violently cackling in the sickly light and I felt as though I was on the set of a late 80’s John Carpenter flick. I thought, “This is fu**ing awesome!”

7. Was there anything particularly difficult about filming Sacrament?                           Honestly, everything about filming Sacrament was difficult for me, but that is not a bad thing. My character, Jason, really gets put through the ringer over and over again which doesn’t really lend to an easy shoot. It was rough, but I knew that and that is why I wanted the role. With the roles that I go after, if I’m not going home bruised, bleeding or broken I feel that I’m not living up to my creative obligation. I think that when I accidentally made myself bleed in the audition they knew that I was the right guy.

8. Is acting your main passion in life?                                                                                         First and foremost, my passion is storytelling. To tell stories that touch people and make them feel something; whether is is through acting, writing directing, comics or good old fashioned words on the page, that is what I will always be chasing.

 

9. How was your experience working with Shawn Ewert?                                                      Oh, that bastard……..no, I’m just kidding. It was really great. He was really great at communicating exactly what he needed both technically and dramatically from you without ever telling you how to act. We had to move really fast, but the few times that I needed one more take, I got it, even though I’m pretty sure he knew that we already had it. It was important to him that I felt I had gotten it right. Shawn is highly creative, highly collaborative and highly adaptable; exactly the guy that you want, creatively, watching your back.

10. To date, what project are you most proud of being a part of?                                             It’s hard to say because these last couple of years I worked on a few movies where I was really impressed with everyone involved and I am very proud to have been among them.  However, Sacrament, I think, holds a special place with me. It does so much  and plays on so many different levels. The cast is great with horror icon Marilyn Burns leading the way and I love the themes and the way it plays with not only horror archetypes but, specifically, Sothern/Texas archetypes. It’s the kind of flick made back in the day before the MTV generation decided everything needed to look and have the substance of one of their music videos. Simply put, it is exactly what a horror film is supposed to be and that makes me infinitely proud to have been  a part of it.

11. What is one thing that you would like to accomplish this year?                                                                  I don’t know? Maybe get cast in an Eli Roth or Robert Rodriguez flick? Or work with Caleb Landry Jones; that cat has really impressed me and I would like to work with him before his career sky rockets. I really don’t know. This is the first time in my life where it really seems as though there are possibilities for me. My main goal is to get Ain’t Clownin Round into pre production before the year is out. I’ve been working on it for a long time and, more than anything, it is meant to be something that brings creative people together to craft a whole that is greater than the sum of it’s already awesome parts. It’s a story that, underneath all of the smut, gore and sharp edges, is about people struggling to be the best of themselves. That is something that I feel is worthy of channeling my energies into and trying to rally the most talented and creative people that I know. Also, I woulda very much like to accomplish procuring a penguin for a pet….I know this is ridiculous, unrealistic, not going to happen and if it did, I’m sure I would regret it within hours. But you asked….. so, I want a fu**ing penguin.

 

 

Domenico Salvaggio, screenwriter, answers 11 Questions With Lisa

Eleven Questions With Lisa

I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Domenico Salvaggio, screenwriter of the film DIE. After reading the novel that inspired the story and then watching the movie, I simply had to know more about how this film came to be. I have chosen not to edit Mr. Salvaggio’s responses because I really enjoyed reading every word. His generous nature and natural ability to tell a story really comes through and I think it’s lovely. A word of caution: there are some tiny spoilers in this interview. DIE is currently available on Netflix (hint hint). Enjoy.

 

1.Were you already familiar with the novel, The Dice Man, by Luke Rhineheart when the story idea for the film was brought to you?

I was familiar with THE DICE MAN novel but only on a superficial level in that a college professor had once mentioned it to me. I was told it was an anti-psychology book (it surely is) and as I was studying psychology at the time I didn’t bother to read it (chalk it up to too much homework).

How the project DIE came to me: There was an original script written by Nick Mead titled DICE. Dominic James, the director was hired in 2008 but wanted some work done on the screenplay. Dominic James and I have been collaborating on projects since 2004. He suggested me to the producers Andre Rouleau and Andrea Marotti. What was a rewrite turned into a re-conceptualization and we were shooting almost exactly a year later in Montreal (which is my hometown). Which is the fastest a project ever came together in my professional life.

Of course, before coming on board the project I read the book and I really wanted to hew closely to it but the producers wanted something closer to a horror film in the vein of SAW. What ended up being DIE was a compromise. I think there are some great ideas, notions in the film but it only scratched the surface of what I wanted to do.

 
2.It feels nearly impossible to talk about The Dice Man without bringing up A Clockwork Orange. Do you feel this is a fair comparison or do you find that it takes away from the originality of The Dice Man?

It’s funny you would bring up CLOCKWORK ORANGE because it’s one of the films that influenced me the most in wanting to be a filmmaker. I actually wrote a paper in college for a literature class that explained how Classical Conditioning was used in Clockwork Orange and how Alex Delarge was essentially a Pavlovian dog in human clothing. Themes of choice and chance are present in a lot of my work. It’s something I love exploring and will continue to explore in some capacity. Kubrick made a masterwork that looks like it was shot yesterday and is still relevant to this day.

Incidentally, I had the pleasure of meeting Malcolm Mcdowell at the premiere of Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN reboot. I told Mr. Mcdowell that he was one of the main reasons I went into the film business. He looked at me and said: “Did you make the right decision?” We both laughed. He was very gracious. A class act all the way. I actually would’ve loved to have him play Jacob’s dad in the film but alas that was not to be. The role went to the great Stephen McHattie.

As for comparing CLOCKWORK with DICE MAN both are different beasts that share the same DNA. But Dice Man probably wouldn’t exist without the brilliance of Anthony Burgess’ seminal novel. That was my favorite book in high school. I was the crazy kid who actually wrote a sequel to CO called CLOCKWORK ORANGE 2 or CO2. In which, Alex, now an older man and reformed, is a high school teacher. A punk rock badass student re-awakens his killer instinct and together they bring about a new generation of chaos and destruction that brings London to its knees. It was like Stephen King’s APT PUPIL but set in the future and with nadsat-speak. Only a kid would be crazy enough to sequelize a classic novel by Burgess and a classic film by Kubrick.

 
3.Did you set out to be a screenwriter or is it something that found you?

I was always a born storyteller. From when I was 7 year old kid, I would often draw in comic book form sequels to films I loved right after seeing them. I made a Raiders of The lost ark sequel minutes after seeing the movie with my dad. I remember drawing on thick legal notebooks in comic book form. I would also team-up Sean Connery and Roger Moore as master and apprentice in new James Bond adventures. While kids were mashing up their action figures in the backyard, I was creating film mashups on paper. I’m sure my parents have that stuff buried deep in a closet in Montreal.

Screenwriting and Hollywood were never EVER part of the plan. I come from a very conservative Sicilian family. My dad worked at the same factory for 40 years. Being a screenwriter was akin to being an astronaut. I may as well have told my parents that I was blasting of to Mars. They wanted me to become an accountant. I did one semester in accounting and I thought I was going to die. I was in class and I literally saw my soul leaving my body. I was watching myself from a distance, life seeping out of my eyes. I got up, left the class and enrolled in the softest of sciences, Psychology. Got my degree. Was accepted to Graduate program, interned for a year with conduct disorder children. Basically, 11 to 15 year old Alex Delarge’s. I liked psychology. It has informed all my screenwriting work. But I LOVED the movies. Dreamt about it constantly.

I wrote two short films and managed to convince people to fund them and make them. One of them (Lotto 666) got the attention of David Fincher and it got into a few festivals. Lotto 666 along with my sample writing for another project got me an agent in Canada, who is still my main agent. This gave me courage. So in 2006 I decided to give it a shot. I came to Los Angeles for two weeks of meetings with producers and never went back. I got married to a California girl, had a kid and worked on a lot of really cool projects. I was helped a lot by people who were virtually strangers. The one person who helped me the most was a fellow Montreal named George Zakk. He was at the time Vin Diesel’s producing partner. He let me stay at his Beverly Hills home, he guided me, introduced me to great people and showed me that the impossible was possible. I met my wife because of him. He is without a doubt one of the most influential people in my life and I’m forever indebted to him.

I always say I fluked my way into this profession but I was telling stories early on. It’s part of my DNA. It warms my heart that my 4 year old girl does exactly the same thing now. In fact we were at a friends house last night and my girl shut the lights grabbed a flashlight and began telling a scary bedtime story that she was making up all by herself. I was never prouder and unlike my parents who would discourage such flights of fancy, we cheered her on. I was so proud.

 
4.As a screenwriter, do you find it easier to sell a pre existing piece of intellectual property over an original idea?

There is nothing harder in the current climate than selling an original piece of work. It’s murder. Just to give you an idea, I am currently developing a TV series based on a graphic novel. Another TV series based on a classic book we all read in high school and a feature film and tv series based on the classic RPG game MUTANT CHRONICLES.

Mutant Chronicles is being produced by legendary producer Ed Pressman and I’m having a great time working on it.

I mean I get it. Hollywood is hedging its bets. It makes sense to build from an established fanbase. Don’t get me wrong I would kill to make a BATMAN film or bring WONDER WOMAN to the big screen. But we do need new ideas to replenish the source. After all what are we going to remake in 20 years if we don’t come up with anything new?

But it’s my firm belief that a good story/idea/concept will find its way. The Director of DIE (Dominic James) and I are very close to getting an original thriller off the ground. Something we’ve been working on even before DIE. We are very excited and hope to announce it soon.

 
5.You have worked with the director, Dominic James before. How did the two of you meet? Is it easier or more difficult to work with someone whom you consider a friend?

Dominic James and I met through a mutual friend when I was doing extra work on a tv movie in Montreal. We went to lunch and basically became fast friends. I wrote the short Lotto 666 and he quickly put it together. Until this day, that’s the only project I ever worked on that was completely my vision. Not a comma was changed on that script and DJ (that’s what I call him) absolutely nailed it. It’s such a well-directed little film. He made it way better than I ever imagined. We do argue but it’s always constructive.

I consider him a friend. My piece of advice in this business: Only work with people you would invite to your house on Sunday for BBQ. You need to create a small team that has your back at all times because everyone else is always trying to stab you or take you down. Good friends don’t let that happen. I trust DJ implicitly. He’s got talent to burn and we will see great things from him in the near future.

 
6.Did the two of you have an overall, positive experience bringing this story to life?

Any film that gets made is a miracle. Writing the film was challenging. There were a lot of differing opinions on what the film should be. I worked closely with DJ (the director) as I always do. Ultimately we came to a compromise with everyone. Is it the film I wanted it to be? I don’t think any film ever is the exact film you want it to be. Unless you are the one paying for it, writing it, directing it and producing it you will never get the film that you saw in your head. As for the actual filming, it was exhilarating. I LOVE being on a movie set. It’s when I’m happiest. Seeing it come to life. Being able to have lunch with the ever gracious Elias Koteas. It was a great experience. I was there everyday with my then fiance by my side. The producers, and crew were first rate. I’m very grateful to producer Andre Rouleau who treated my Wife and I like royalty during the shoot.

 

 

7.I enjoyed the lack of gratuitous gore in the film. Was there ever any pressure put upon you to make the death scenes more gruesome?

I’m glad you enjoyed that aspect of the film. By the time we got to principal photography the decision not to include gore was already made. We were not sinking into a gore-fest. The initial script we got was extremely gory. I’m talking CANNIBAL FEROX gore. The first thing DJ and I did was take it down and focus more on the psychological tension we could ring out of this locked room mystery. I feel the film benefits from the lack of gore. Everyone who likes the film always tell us that the lack of gore is one of the main aspects they enjoy the most. It was a conscious decision by us not to go full throttle gore and it was a decision spearheaded by DJ. It was without a doubt the right decision for DIE.

 

 

8.The novel focuses primarily on the founder of The Dice Life and how it affects his life,
whereas, DIE deals with the how the founder would gain more disciples. Where did this idea come from
?

I alluded earlier that my instinct when I was approached to write the script was to follow the book closely. I wanted to present a Man who was a psychotherapist, he had everything, nice house, nice kids, good career. But he was stagnating. His choices in life led him to a stalemate. He needed to be re-invigorated. Hence the “dicing.” The fun would be to see his life collapse all around him the deeper he got into the “dice life.” There would be murder, mayhem and slowly we would see him become a cult leader with an enormous following. It was like the origin story of a supervillain. The analogy I used was we would see how a normal, upstanding citizen became someone like the JOKER.

Ultimately, we ended up with Jacob Odd already existing and already having his followers. He got a brief but interesting opening sequence with his father who basically set him on the path to destruction or as Jacob sees it, awakening.

The disciples was something DJ and I came up with. We wanted Jacob to be the ultimate cult leader. He was David Koresh mixed with Jim Jones. A charismatic leader who’s convinced he’s a hero setting people on the right path. Jacob is the type of character who fascinates me and I wish we had more time to explore him in the film.

 
9.Is there a specific reason that Tchaikovsky music was playing in the casino bar?

As a writer I have absolutely no say in the musical choices. So I reached out to the director Dominic James and he said he chose this particular piece of music—

“Because it has a hypnotic beauty to it which contrasts the darkness of the emotions experienced by the characters and enhances the pattern they are locked into. I felt it had an operatic feel to it. I was probably influenced by Kubrick who tends to use such contrast. I wanted to showcase the Beauty in darkness.”

I agree. It was a great choice and my favorite scene in the film.

 
10.Why did you decide to make a casino the location that Jacob chooses?

This is something I stumbled upon while writing. I knew Jacob Odd came from money. That was established early on. He inherited his father’s fortune. So while writing the underground glass dungeons scenes I began to wonder where would Jacob keep his pupils/victims and it dawned on me… where is the only place where blind chance can destroy a life on a daily basis? A casino became the most obvious choice. Jacob was a casino owner. It was such a perfect location for this character to basically continue what’s happening in the upper floors and bring it to the underground lair but with life and death consequences.

I love casinos but ironically I’m not a gambler. I love observing casino behavior. Watching people roll in with hope and exuberance and then a few hours later those same people are devastated. All because they made the choice to let chance determine their fate. It’s a glorious setting for a bad guy’s secret lair.

 


11.What was your main takeaway from the screenwriting experience on this movie?

Every time I write something new I learn something about myself and the craft of screenwriting. On DIE I learned the art of compromise. We worked on a tight schedule, with a tight budget, so the script had to be adjusted to meet those expectations. It was a challenging but ultimately satisfying experience.

I was also quite sick at the time while I was writing DIE. I was back in Montreal and there were a few moments when I didn’t feel I could go on. But Dominic James showed up at my place in Montreal and pushed me to the finish line. My mom would cook a feast for us while we were upstairs bouncing ideas off each other. My biggest take-way: No film is made alone. Dominic James was instrumental in the conceptualization of DIE… and the best idea ALWAYS wins.